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Does Denim Shrink? [How to Shrink Denim Jeans and Jackets]

One of the keys to prolonging the life of your clothes is taking care of them properly, including preventing them from shrinking. Denim is a staple in most people’s wardrobes, leaving many people to wonder if denim shrinks. Whether you have a pair of comfy jeans or a favorite jacket, you want your denim clothing to continue to fit for a long time. We’re here to provide you with an answer.

Like other types of fabric, denim will shrink under certain conditions. It shrinks because of how it is made and what it is made of. The only way to prevent it from shrinking is to buy pre-shrunk denim or pay close attention to how you care for it.

But why and how much does denim shrink? How do you prevent denim from shrinking? What if, for whatever reason, you want your denim to shrink? Can you shrink it intentionally? In this article, we’ll try to answer all of your questions about shrinking denim.

Does Denim Shrink

Does Denim Shrink?

Unless you buy pre-shrunk denim, it is very likely that denim will shrink, especially denim jeans. The most common cause of denim shrinking happens when you launder it in the washing machine or dryer. You should be prepared for some amount of shrinking to occur, especially after the first wash.

Why Does Denim Shrink?

Denim shrinks because of what it is made of. Many people don’t know this, but most denim is made of either 100% cotton or a cotton blend. Cotton is known to shrink when you wash it due to using hot water or high heat. Denim shrinks for the same reason.

When you wash denim or other fabrics made primarily of cotton, they tend to shrink when exposed to heat. That’s because the fabric is made up of plant fibers. Plants tend to wilt when they get too hot, and the same thing happens to plant-based fabrics.

Heat causes the fibers to constrict, shrinking them. Denim can shrink as much as 10% after the first wash. It’s important to treat denim the same way as you would cotton, especially when you wash and dry it.

Does Denim Shrink Over Time?

Even though denim shrinks a little more the first time you wash them, it can continue to shrink over time with continued washing as well. But the amount of shrinking that occurs during other washes is small and isn’t permanent.

This is because denim is designed to stretch when you wear it to fit your body type better. The more you wear it, the better it will fit because the fibers become stretched out. But after you wear a pair of jeans, for example, the fibers shrink a little after being stretched out. They will stretch back the next time you wear the jeans.

Does Denim Shrink When Not Worn?

No, denim should not shrink if you don’t wear it. Leaving denim hanging in your closet isn’t going to cause it to shrink because most shrinking occurs during washing and drying them. However, that doesn’t mean that you should never wear or wash it to keep it from shrinking. As long as you care for it carefully, you have nothing to worry about.

Do Denim Jeans Shrink In The Washer?

Do jeans shrink in the wash

It’s been previously mentioned that the washer is one of the most common reasons that denim shrinks, especially jeans. But just because you wash your jeans in the washer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will shrink.

Whether or not your jeans shrink ultimately depends on the water temperature that you use to wash them in. Hot water is more likely to cause shrinking, especially if you’re washing your jeans for the first time.

What Temperature Does Denim Shrink?

There isn’t an exact temperature that causes denim to shrink because it mainly depends on the fabric. The larger the percentage of cotton that denim is made of, the more likely it is to shrink. Likewise, as water temperatures get hotter, the amount of shrinking increases as well.

Popular jeans maker Levi’s even suggests that jeans that haven’t been pre-shrunk can shrink as much as two pants sizes after the first wash, especially when washed in hot water. Jeans can also shrink some during consecutive washes, although they probably won’t shrink as much as they did during the first wash. They will also stretch back out some as you wear them.

Even though it’s hard to pinpoint a specific temperature that causes denim to shrink, it is safe to say that some shrinking will occur if denim is exposed to temperatures that are 85 to 90 degrees or higher. Washing your jeans with water that has a temperature below 60 degrees will usually prevent shrinking.

However, some people feel that their clothes don’t get as clean when they are washed with cool or cold water. That’s because the water below 60 degrees doesn’t do as good of a job at killing bacteria as cold water does. If you’re worried that not using hot water means that your clothes won’t get as clean, it is best to buy pre-shrunk jeans to avoid shrinking.

Do Jeans Shrink In The Dryer?

Just like denim jeans can shrink in the washing machine, they can also shrink in the dryer. Even if you didn’t use hot water to wash them, setting the dryer to high heat when you dry your jeans can cause them to shrink as well. If you did wash them with hot water and they shrunk, they can shrink even more if the dryer temperature is too hot.

Fortunately, it is a lot easier to prevent your jeans from shrinking in the dryer than preventing them from shrinking in the washing machine. In the dryer, you don’t necessarily need hot temperatures to clean them while they dry.

The best way to prevent jeans from shrinking while they are drying is to let them air dry. You can also set the drying temperature to cool or low heat. They may not dry as quickly as they would if you use high heat, but they will still get dry. But again, if you’re concerned about your jeans potentially shrinking in the dryer, you can buy pre-shrunk denim.

How Much Do Jeans Shrink and Where?

Do jeans shrink

Some people don’t want their jeans to shrink. But believe it or not, some people do want them to shrink some. For instance, jeans shrinking in length could cause them to be too short for a tall person but just the right length for a short person.

Likewise, sometimes jeans perfectly fit in length but don’t fit in the waist. Sometimes they fit perfectly in the waist but are too long. This leaves many people to wonder where jeans shrink at and how much they shrink so that they can try to get the perfect fit after they buy them.

Whether or not you want your jeans to shrink, it’s important to note that jeans can shrink in length, width, or both. According to Clorox, how much they shrink in length and width just depends on what type of fabric they’re made of. Jeans can shrink up to as much as 10% after the first wash, but they usually only shrink about 3 to 4%. You can also expect them to shrink a little after each wash.

In The Waist

How much jeans shrink in the waist depends on the waist size of the jeans. Jeans can shrink in the waist as much as 1 to 3 inches. If your jeans have a smaller waist size, they may not shrink as much as a pair of jeans with a larger waist.

However, you shouldn’t worry too much about jeans shrinking in the waist. The good news is that if your jeans do shrink in the waist, it is very likely that they will stretch back out some as you wear them. They also won’t shrink as much the next time you wash them.

In Length

The length of a pair of jeans is where you can expect much of that 3 to 4% shrinkage to take place. Jeans can shrink about 1 to 1 ¼ inches in length. That’s a good thing if you are short or petite and your jeans are a little bit too long. If you’re tall, on the other hand, you may find that your jeans are now too short for you after they’ve been washed.

When jeans do shrink in length and become too short, they are a little harder to stretch back out. This is because denim doesn’t naturally stretch lengthwise when you wear it.

If you think your jeans did shrink in the washer, don’t put them in the dryer. Instead, hang them up to air dry. But instead of attaching the hanger to the waist, attach one side of the hanger to each leg and hang them upside down.

Hanging them this way will cause the heavier part of the jeans in the waist and seat to pull down on the legs, which may stretch them out some. This works especially well if the jeans are made from 100% cotton because cotton becomes easier to stretch when it is wet.

Can You Shrink Denim Jeans Permanently?

Losing weight or finding a good pair of jeans that are too big for you may cause you to want to shrink your jeans on purpose. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to shrink denim jeans permanently. This is due to the natural tendency of jeans to stretch when you wear them.

If you still want to try to permanently shrink jeans that are too big for you, you can try washing and drying them using hot water and high heat. However, this may not be effective and you have to be careful.

Intentionally shrinking any type of clothing can cause damage or over shrink the clothing because you can’t control how much shrinking happens.

How To Shrink Denim Jeans at Home

How to shrink levi jeans

If you still want to shrink your denim jeans, there are a couple of methods you can try. These methods are effective as long as you’re careful, although you may have to repeat them as needed depending on how much the jeans stretch back out.

You should be aware that these methods aren’t necessarily permanent fixes because jeans will likely stretch back out after you’ve worn them a few times. While they may not stretch back the entire percentage they lost, you may have to repeat one of these methods periodically to shrink the fibers a little.

Washing and Drying

To shrink jeans this way, all you have to do is wash them using the hottest water setting. You can still use a normal cycle and normal detergent. Once they are done washing, dry them on the hottest setting that the jeans can tolerate without damaging them.

Leaving them in the dryer after they are dry can cause even more shrinking, although you should check them periodically until they are your desired size. Once they fit how you want them to, remove them from the dryer.


If you only want to shrink your jeans a little, you can try boiling them. It may sound strange, but it’s easier to prevent them from over-shrinking this way because you can control how long you boil them.

To do this, you need to boil enough water in a big enough pot to hold and completely submerge the jeans. Once the water has started boiling, place your jeans in the boiling water and leave them for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how much you want them to shrink.

Wear oven mitts and use tongs to place the jeans into the water and hold them under the water while it’s boiling. When they are done boiling, use the tongs to remove them. If you need them to shrink more, dry them in the dryer using high heat. Otherwise, dry them using low heat.

How To Shrink Just One Area

It is also possible to only shrink one area of your jeans that stretches out more, such as the waist. All you have to do is fill a spray bottle with one part fabric softener to three parts hot water. Use the spray bottle to soak the area that you want to shrink, then put them in the dryer on the hottest setting. You can also use an iron or a hairdryer to dry the area.

How To Shrink A Denim Jacket

How much do jeans shrink

It isn’t easy to shrink a denim jacket because they aren’t always made with 100% cotton. Sometimes denim jackets are made with cotton blended with synthetic fabrics, or they have a lining in them. In either case, shrinking may not be effective because synthetic fibers can become damaged due to high heat.

If you still want to attempt to shrink a denim jacket, the safest methods to try to avoid damaging it are the boiling method or only trying to shrink certain areas. Although sometimes it is better for your denim jacket to be oversized. A lot of people find bigger denim jackets to be more comfortable.

How to Unshrink Jeans

If your jeans did shrink too much and you didn’t want them to, follow these steps to try to unshrink them:

  1. Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water.
  2. Pour a couple of capfuls of baby shampoo into the water.
  3. Place your jeans in the soapy water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Take the jeans out and squeeze out any excess water.
  5. Rinse the jeans using clean lukewarm water and squeeze out the excess water again.
  6. Lay the damp jeans flat on a dry towel and roll the jeans up inside the towel.
  7. Gently press the towel to soak up any remaining water, then unroll the towel.
  8. Pull the jeans in opposite directions at the areas that you want to stretch.
  9. Hang them up to dry. Remember to hang them upside down if you want to stretch the legs even more.
  10. After the jeans have dried, repeat the steps if necessary.

How to Prevent Jeans From Shrinking

The most effective way to prevent jeans from shrinking is to buy them pre-shrunk. If this is not an option, washing your jeans using cool or warm water is the next best option. You can even turn them inside out to keep the outside from shrinking if you wish. When drying them, be sure to use low or no heat, or hang them up to air dry.


We hope this article answered all of your questions about how denim shrinks. If you want to shrink your denim, we hope the methods provided are effective. If you don’t want your denim to shrink, be sure to follow the recommendations that were mentioned. Be sure to share this with others and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!